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Calgary councillor raises the potential need for a fire ban during the heatwave

Calgary is already in the oven, so to speak, and there isn’t much enthusiasm for adding fire to the mix.

At a strategic meeting of council on June 28, Coun. Ward Sutherland questioned whether residents should be using their backyard firepits.

The worry comes about as the city enters a brutal heatwave that is blanketing most of western North America. The severity is highlighted by Lytton, B.C, which saw the highest temperature ever recorded in Canada at 46 C.  

The fear of fires is sparking concern from Coun. Sutherland.

“Many residents are asking about firepits and whether or not they are appropriate in backyards during a heatwave. I want to know whether there should be a temporary ban during a heatwave,” he said.

Personal responsibility is coming up above comfort. Some on council are wondering why anyone would need a fire right now for comfort, considering the conditions.

Measures in place to prevent fire pit usage

Fire Chief Steve Dongworth alleviated Councillor Sutherland’s concerns when he said that the fire department does have the authority to issue a temporary ban during the heatwave.

“We’ve been watching the situation around Calgary the last couple of days, and there is a ban in the forestry area around Calgary, but it doesn’t cover firepits. It covers more, burning garbage and things like that,” Chief Dongworth said.

“To Councillor Sutherland’s point, the issue is whether anyone needs a firepit to stay warm. So, the need isn’t there and it can be an irritant to people who have their windows open. I certainly have the authority to put a temporary ban in place.”

Although this ban would be useful for some, Chief Dongworth said that this is not going to stop the main fire threat, which is leaving cigarette butts on the ground. That is more likely to start a wildland fire than any firepit in someone’s backyard.

There was no discussion on when a temporary firepit ban could be enacted. Chief Dongworth said that implementing one could raise awareness of the fire hazard during the hot weather.

Firework etiquette reminder

While the firepits were the main concern, Mayor Nenshi also brought up firework education and safety. Mayor Nenshi said that firework etiquette should be top of mind right now. Especially with Canada Day coming up.

“We are hearing of a lot of unauthorized fireworks that people are setting off. We need to remind people of the rules around personal use of fireworks,” Mayor Nenshi said.

“As has been said, as things dry up, they become quite dangerous.”

Those rules in question are that only permitted firework displays are allowed within the city. The fire department needs to distribute those permits for the use of fireworks to be considered lawful.